[Excerpt] Academic careers are no longer the be-all and end-all for economics Ph.D. students, and the findings and background provided by Siegfried and Stock help to explain why this is so.
The median age at which individuals receive economics Ph.D.'s in the Siegfried and Stock sample is 32. While they are somewhat surprised at this finding, it parallels the experiences of many other fields. Increasingly, students are working before proceeding to doctoral studies. Often Ph.D. students in economics enter their programs after having spent several years working for government agencies or research consulting companies—work that has whetted their appetites for graduate study in economics that will enable them to make greater contributions in the policy arena. As these students proceed through doctoral studies, average time to degree has also increased. It is unclear whether this has occurred across institutions, or whether the phenomenon is a byproduct of Ph.D.'s increasingly coming from lower-ranked institutions at which financial support for graduate students is less adequate. Less adequate financial support is known to lengthen time to degree and reduce doctoral completion rates (Ehrenberg and Mavros, 1995).